Business owner jailed for safety failings

27 November 2014

The owner of a scaffolding business has been jailed for 15 months due to safety failures that lead to the death of a scaffolder, who fell from a tower scaffold he was working on.

The sentence followed two earlier court appearances relating to the non-disclosure, by the business owner, of essential documents relating to his management of work at height, which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) needed to complete its investigation.

The earlier cases resulted in the owner being fined £12,000 and ordered to pay more than £5,500 in costs after admitting to breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and the Employer’s Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act.

During the trial the court was told that the business owner was responsible for the tower scaffold and he was found guilty of a breach of the Work at Height Regulations. He had failed to properly plan, supervise and carry out the work in a safe manner.

The HSE established that edge protection was missing from the scaffold and that the worker who died was not provided with the means to prevent or minimise the risk of harm in the event of a fall, such as a fall arrest harness.

Speaking after sentencing an HSE inspector said, “Our investigation into this tragic death was delayed for several months because of [the business owners’] total lack of co-operation in supporting our work. That had a knock-on impact in delaying the Coroner’s inquest and we had no option but to prosecute before he eventually provided the information we needed.

The bottom line here is that [the deceased worker] was killed in a preventable fall that could have been avoided”.

Citation says: This case illustrates the need for all Work at Height to be properly planned and for safety measures to be put in place to prevent or minimise the effects of a fall from height. It also illustrates the dim view that Enforcing Authorities take on those who obstruct their investigation proceedings.

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